Football surges in second half, beat AIC 54-26


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Tyler Wells

New Haven wide receiver Kasi Hazard celebrates after scoring a touchdown against AIC, West Haven, Sept. 17, 2022

In front of a sold out crowd of over 4,000 for Family Day, the New Haven football team ran away with a 54-26 victory over visiting American International College. The defense rallied in the second half, giving up just six points as the offense was able to pull away.

Early in the game it didn’t look like this would be the case. The Chargers came out firing in the first quarter following a close win over Southern Connecticut State last week, as quarterback Connor Degenhardt found tight end Kevin Foelsch in the corner of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.

It was the start of a special day for Degenhardt, who would go on to tally over 300 passing yards and a staggering six touchdowns.

After a quick ensuing drive led to a field goal for the Yellow Jackets and a stalled New Haven drive, the Chargers’ defense responded. A ball from the AIC QB was tipped and intercepted by defensive lineman Xavier Long, who got up with an emphatic celebration as he headed to the bench.

New Haven’s offense took over and had a scare when Degenhardt’s pass was picked off by the defense. However, penalties on both sides resulted in a reply of the down, saving the team from the turnover.

Just two plays later, Degenhardt had the ball knocked out of his hand in the pocket which was then recovered by the Yellow Jackets and returned to the end zone. The sudden score put AIC up 10-6 and left the crowd stunned.

The following New Haven drive did nothing to help the outlook, as a three-and-out gave the ball right back to AIC to close out the first quarter. When the Chargers got the ball again, the Yellow Jacket defense left wide receiver Kasi Hazzard wide open for a 39-yard touchdown, giving New Haven the lead back.

This sparked an electrifying second quarter that saw New Haven tally 21 total points. AIC didn’t go away quietly, though, as they connected for a one play, 67-yard touchdown to retake a 17-13 lead.

New Haven responded with a pair of passes to gain 33-yards, and a 28-yard rush by running back Shamar Logan to place the ball within the AIC 10-yard line. Fellow RB Christopher Ais went on to punch the ball in, resulting in another lead change as New Haven went up 20-17.

After AIC again connected on a deep throw, the New Haven defense came up with a stop when defensive back Devonte Miles picked off a pass on fourth down. Just a few plays later, the AIC pass rush was able to get to Degenhardt again and force a fumble, which they recovered deep in New Haven territory. The Chargers defense remained stingy, giving up just a field goal to tie the game.

With just over three minutes remaining in the half and no timeouts, the Chargers were looking for something to swing the momentum their way. This came in the form of return man and WR Terrell Ford.

On the kickoff following the field goal, Ford returned the ball 60 yards to set the New Haven offense up on the other side of midfield. A defensive holding, two Degenhardt completions and a few rushes put the ball on the three-yard line with just 30 seconds left. Degenhardt then turned to Foelsch again, who came down with the back shoulder fade in the corner of the end zone.

In an instant, New Haven stepped into the locker room at half with a 27-20 lead and the momentum in their favor.

With AIC starting on offense to open the second half, New Haven’s defense looked to get a stop. They did just this, limiting the Yellow Jackets offense and forcing them to punt after a quiet drive.

Ais then made his presence known, gashing the Yellow Jackets defensive line and rattling off a 31-yard rush right into the red zone. A pass interference penalty and a four-yard rushing loss placed the ball on the six-yard line when Logan swung out of the backfield and was left uncovered for a pass. He was able to walk into the end zone untouched to extend the New Haven lead to 14.

Just when it seemed as though New Haven was beginning to pull away, the Yellow Jackets responded with another passing touchdown of their own. The point after attempt was blocked by Mazon Walker keeping the score at 34-26. This would be the last points for AIC in the game as the New Haven defense flexed their strength in the second half.

“There wasn’t much adjustment,” New Haven lineback Damon Burton Jr. said about the defensive improvement in the second half. “It was more or less just playing our defense… getting back to playing UNH football.”

Next, it was Ford making himself known once again.

The New Haven return man fielded the kickoff and shed the first two tackles of his run, finding an opening and outrunning the AIC defense. The bleachers erupted as Ford gave New Haven the exact response they needed, and as fans recognized the special game that he was having on returns.

“It was great blocking,” Ford said. “That’s one of the reasons they brought me here, so I just wanted to do what I do.”

After the extra-point attempt was missed, the score was 40-26 in favor of the Chargers. This was all they would ultimately need, as the defense held AIC in check for the rest of the afternoon. However, the offense wasn’t done yet.

Rolling out of the pocket off a play-action, Degenhardt was able to find Ford wide open in the back of the end zone for the 23-yard touchdown, continuing the receiver’s standout day.

“It felt good,” he said. “Just making plays when the opportunity is called.”

The final New Haven score came after RB Hunter Cobb was subbed into the backfield for the first time all afternoon. He rushed for 53 yards to set the offense up deep in the red zone, and his fellow RB Jake Conlin punched in an 11-yard rush to stretch the lead to 28.

That is where the score would hold, as New Haven walked away with a 54-26 win.

“I thought our defense played really well,” New Haven head coach Christopher Pincince said after the game. “They did a nice job of answering the bell against a very, very difficult offense to play. Offensively we’re not consistent enough.”

Degenhardt led New Haven’s offensive attack, throwing for 327 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Ais led all rushers with 83 yards and a touchdown, while WR Dev Holmes tallied 103 receiving yards and Foelsch caught two touchdowns. On defense, Burton Jr. led the team with six tackles while defensive back Devon Williams had five tackles of his own and an interception. The defensive line also had two interceptions of their own, one by Long and another by Jaysen Triunfer.

With the win, New Haven improves to 2-1 (1-0 NE-10) and prepares for a big matchup against Bentley University next week. AIC falls to 0-3 (0-1 NE-10) with the loss.

Next week’s game is on the road at Bentley, and will be a rematch of the top two teams in the NE-10 last season. The game is slated to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday night, making it a shorter turnaround than normal for the Chargers. More information on the upcoming schedule, along with stats and a stream for the game can be found at